After being voted off the show, receiving the Judges' Save and surviving to sing for five additional weeks, American Idol hopeful Michael Lynche was eliminated last night, leaving a trio of singers with gritty, soulful voices competing for the Season Nine crown: Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze and Casey James. Viewers cast a season high 37 million votes Tuesday after Jamie Foxx guided the final four through songs that famously appeared on movie soundtracks. Lynche's selection, Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" from Free Willy, left the judges musing about whales, but his duet with Casey James on "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" received glowing feedback.
The final three will travel to their hometowns for the traditional Idol-sponsored events that have brought previous hopefuls to tears — to prove the point, the show produced a montage of Kris Allen, Carrie Underwood, David Cook and other Idol success stories getting misty in front of massive crowds (the most touching moment: a shot of Elliott Yamin's frail mom in a motorcade).
Before Lynche and his family, seated onstage for extra dramatic effect, received the bad news, Fantasia previewed her summer disc with "Bittersweet," Daughtry performed "September," a song that explores the simplicity of childhood, and Bon Jovi broke out their most textured shirts for "Superman Tonight."
Moments before he gave his last two-handed wave goodbye, Lynche expressed appreciation for his tumultuous Idol journey, which began with his wife giving birth during auditions: "I wasn't even supposed to be here, thank God the judges saved me and I got to spend more time here."